Friday, 30 June 2017

Choral Chameleon Institute: Day 7

Day 7, the penultimate day of prep before the big finale tomorrow! It's been another fabulous day at Choral Chameleon, and one demonstrating a hell of a lot of excellent music and musicians!

We started the day with, you guessed it, Ear Training. Well, actually, I started my day with Vince coming up to me before class to tell me he was up at 6am reading all my blogs and had a LOT to say about Solfege..... couldn't help but feel like a naughty school child at that point, haha! I do want to reiterate here, I'm not dissing Solfege: I totally understand what it is, and why it is so favoured, and it's not like I'm not trying to get my head around it, because I really am! But the way I view this is, it's a method: a method of teaching/understanding pitch. But much like in my vocal teaching practice I do not teach any one method as my preference (I will use a wide range of all the methods and tools at my disposal to suit the student), I can't see Solfege becoming my 'preferred' method - although it will probably make it's way into my lexicon and 'bag of tricks' when working with harmony. And, if I continue this trend of attending these workshops and institutes in the USA, I'm probably going to need to understand it much better than I do now! Another system which our teacher Joe explained to us was a method of counting rhythm, using a system of numbers, dashes and 'checks' - I will fail to explain it well in this blog, but what I can tell you is that I grasped this new method much more easily than I have Solfege. I'm starting to wonder if my Dyslexia is playing a part in this: when I play Countdown at home my ability with numbers is far superior to my ability with the letters, and perhaps this is another layer to the Solfege-frenemy cake I need to consider.

With our ears nicely tuned in to music, it was time to begin the mammoth task of the day's rehearsal, which would require the full ensemble of the Choral Chameleon Singers to make their way through each composer's piece, as well as the 4 pieces for the student conductors, making 16 pieces in total. That is one HELL of a task, and I've got to say, these guys are serious pros! They really know what they're doing, and they managed to pull off a 6 hour rehearsal process without any fatigue in the voice. One of the sopranos (Liz, I believe) has the purest most etherial voice I've ever heard, and she just kept hitting top A after top A without so much as a glimmer of tiredness creeping in - super impressive! The quality of the compositional work is also pretty amazing. There's a really diverse mix of technique, style, and I really love how well matched each composition is to each composer's personality. One moment which will really highlight the diversity of the concert will be Yangfan Xu's piece, which is highly ambitious and featuring a vast array of complex techniques (as well as being in Chinese), followed by my piece, which actually has a slight air of classic Elgar about it - when I heard the choir sing the opening this afternoon I could suddenly hear an element of 'Nimrod' within it. From the intricate and impressive sounds of Asia, to the classic simplicity of Britain, it will take the audience from a piece that will need them to get their teeth (or ears) stuck into it, to a something to cleanse a palette - it's going to be awesome!

Fun times with the lymphatic system - wooooooo! #nerds
One thing that I've also really enjoyed at this Institute was the sense of equality - I don't mean that in the political way, but rather in the professional way. Even though I am here as a student of composition and conducting, I feel like my expertise in other areas of my career are welcomed and valued - as a vocal teacher I have a lot of understanding and instinct about how the voice works, as well as other holistic approaches to the voice and body on the whole which I have really enjoyed sharing with other participants and faculty. Steve Smith, our choral analysis tutor, and I have had several discussions regarding vocal technique, and today I was able to show him two methods I use to aid my health as a performer: lymphatic drainage massage (which is far less invasive and disgusting as it sounds, I promise), and a shoulder tension releasing exercise. The shoulder tension release was actually quite amazing on Steve, who has a mis-aligned posture to begin with - it evened out his shoulders, and I'm pretty sure he spent the rest of the day walking around two inches taller!

After the epic rehearsal, there was a definite sense of needing to chill out in a big way, which is when the amazing offer of 'Happy Hour Wine' at composer Nick Weiniger's place came up - pretty safe to say, that was a very popular suggestion, and it wasn't long before the place was jumping with choral nerds needing to unwind. Wine, cheese, cookies from Hot Mike at hotmike.com (in-joke, #sorrynotsorry), followed by heading off to Clover Club for food and cocktails. This is pretty much the first time that any big social gathering has happened at this institute other than the welcome dinner - there's been small gatherings, and we all seem to congregate in Carroll park for lunch everyday, but this was a great night of everyone having a good old laugh over cocktails and institute in-jokes - definitely the best way to relax after a hugely stressful, rewarding, and loooooooong day.

Happy Hour time for the Choral Chameleon Crowd - work hard, play hard #artiswork #wineisart therefore... #artiswine